Friend to Friend: Every Step of the Way
June 2001

“Friend to Friend: Every Step of the Way,” Friend, June 2001, 6

Friend to Friend:

Every Step of the Way

The Lord will go before you (Isa. 52:12).

I was born in July 1931 in Salt Lake City. The home I grew up in was right across the street from the Utah State Capitol. My friends and I knew that building like the backs of our hands. We knew every tunnel and stairway in it. We used to climb to the dome on the little steel ladder that went all the way to the top inside of it. We also played golf, football, and baseball on the big lawns surrounding the capitol.

When I was about eight years old, I attended Lafayette School, which was very close to Temple Square. One day at lunchtime, my mother took me out for lunch at the Lion House, which is a house where President Brigham Young used to live. While we were there, she noticed President Heber J. Grant eating lunch. Taking me over, she introduced me to him, and he shook my hand. I knew he was different from other men. Since that time, I have shaken hands with the next eight Presidents of the Church. Each time, I could feel the honor and dignity of the prophet.

One Sunday when I was twelve years old, I was sitting on the front row with the deacons at the missionary farewell of President Benjamin J. Bowering. In his talk, President Bowering said, “There has never been a time in my life when I have not known that the gospel is true.” The minute I heard him say that, I realized that I felt the same way. At that moment, the stirrings of the Spirit and the strength of my testimony became evident to me, and those feelings have stayed with me all my life. Because of that talk, I recognized what I had—a testimony of the gospel.

I believe that the Lord knows the experiences and trials that each of us needs in life and that He will guide us if we do what we should. I had always planned to go on a mission. In the spring of 1950, I was eighteen and finishing my sophomore year at the University of Utah. I was studying for my final tests when my father, who was also my bishop, came into my room and asked me, “Are you ready to go on your mission?”

I said, “Yes, Dad, I am.”

He asked, “Is your life in order?”

I said, “Yes, it is.”

“Good,” he said. “You’ll leave in two months.”

I immediately submitted my papers and soon received my call from President George Albert Smith. Before I reached the British Isles Mission two months later, the Korean War had started and there were restrictions on the number of young men who could serve missions. If I had waited to go, I might not have been able to serve a mission.

An experience that I had on my mission shows how Heavenly Father watches over us. My companion and I had just taught and baptized a family in Leeds, England. Then we were transferred to Bradford, about a half-hour bus trip away. One day, my companion and I were getting ready to visit some missionaries in our district, but it seemed like we just could not get out the door. Each time we left, we realized that we had forgotten something.

After returning three times, we thought, Maybe there’s some reason we should stay here. We sat down, and within a few minutes, the phone rang. It was the mother of the family we had baptized in Leeds. She was very ill, and she needed us to come give her a blessing. We immediately left for the bus stop, where the bus was just about to leave. When we changed buses, we again caught our bus very quickly. When we arrived, the woman was so sick that she was shivering badly, and we couldn’t even understand her words. My companion and I gave her a blessing, and as I said the words, we both felt so much strength leave us that we had to sit down for almost ten minutes. During that time, she was able to stand, go to her kitchen, and prepare something for the three of us to drink. When we left half an hour later, she was completely healed and waved to us at the door. Not all priesthood blessings are answered so quickly and happily, but we were overjoyed for it to happen to this good sister.

I met my wife, Ann, when we were both singing in choirs at the University of Utah. For a short time after we married, we lived in the same area where I grew up. We had very little money. Sometimes when we went on a date, Ann popped a bag of popcorn and we drove downtown in our old car to a movie theater. We didn’t have enough money to buy tickets, so we sat in our car and ate our popcorn while we watched the interesting people going into the theater! While I was getting my law degree, I drove an oil truck to earn money to support our family. Our first three children—twins and another daughter—were born in one year!

There is a story about a little girl whose father worked digging wells. Every day the little girl took a sack lunch to her father. Looking down into the dark hole, she couldn’t see her father working at the bottom, but he could see her standing in the light. Every day, she called out to her father. He told her to drop the sack down to him, and he would catch it. One day, her father said, “Why don’t you come down and join me for lunch today? If you’ll just jump into the hole, I’ll catch you.”

“But, Daddy, I can’t see you.”

“I can see you, and I will catch you.”

Trusting, the little girl jumped. Her father caught her, and they enjoyed their lunch together.

We do not always know what the Lord has in store for us or why certain things happen. But if our lives are in order, the Lord will guard us and guide us and bless us every step of the way.

Playing in the snow at age 2

With his parents, Ray and Mary Wood, at age 5

With his best friend, Werner Widtsoe Kiepe, at age 6

As a missionary in 1950

Elder Wood and his wife, Ann